William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist
William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other.
Fitness enthusiasts are often on the lookout for new workouts to achieve their target fitness goals. The Asian squat or deep squat is among such workouts. But how is this type of sitting position, commonly seen in Asian countries, considered a workout?
This article provides insights on Asian squats and a step-by-step guide on how to perform one. We have also compiled the factors that can affect the execution of a perfect Asian squat to help you understand its mechanics.
What Is An Asian Squat?
The Asian squat is a commonly practiced sitting position in many Asian countries. It is similar to a deep squat but has roots in Asian cultures. This deep squatting position involves the active participation and slightly wider range of motion of lower body muscles like the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and quads. Asain squats also stimulate the core muscles, such as the erector spinae, to achieve good balance for long periods and various health benefits. (1)
The deep Asian squat is not exclusively seen as an exercise in Asian countries. It is because the squatting position contributes a significant part to their daily life by being a common resting position. Asian people are naturally taught the deep squatting position from an early age through cultural and practical reasons.
However, the Asian squat started to gain more popularity in the western world as a lower body workout. The reason behind the popularity of this squatting technique is that genetically, people in western countries cannot perform a full squat easily. (2)
Over the years, with extensive research, Asian squats are now considered more than a common resting position. They are highly beneficial for the health of the lower body muscles, bones, and joints and provide health benefits for different body functions. (3)
But before we jump into the health benefits of the deep squatting position, let us see how you can perform Asian squats.
How To Asian Squat?
If you are of Asian descent, you will find it easy to perform Asian squats. This squatting position might be a part of your daily life from a young age, and with time, you can easily squat deep. But people in western countries find it challenging to execute the Asian squat posture.
In order to check whether you are able to perform the deep Asian squat, observe your squatting posture. Keep your feet flat on the ground, and by simply sitting and bending your lower leg and knees, check whether you can maintain an upright posture.
If you lean forward and are unable to balance your body weight on your lower body muscles, you might have limited deep squatting flexibility. Factors like genetics, age, ankle mobility, certain limb-length proportions, condition of core muscles, lower body muscles, etc., can affect the Asian squatting posture, as discussed later.
So if you want to try the Asian squats or deep squats, maintaining the correct squatting posture and range of motion of the lower leg bone and muscles is necessary. Here are a few steps on how to Asian squat to achieve its associated health benefits and body awareness:
Step 1: Select A Suitable Location
First and foremost, you should find a space suitable for performing Asian squats. Look for a location with support at waist height when standing upright to hold on to while you squat deep. The support may be a bar, window, table, etc. It is crucial to make sure that whatever support you choose to stabilize your initial position remains stable throughout and is easy to reach. Moreover, ensure that the space is clear from nearby objects that might result in unwanted injuries if you disbalance from the squatting position.
Step 2: Position Feet In the Correct Formation
The next step to correctly performing an Asian squat is to position the feet in the proper formation. Stand in an upright posture with feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure the lower leg bone and knees are in the extended position and the feet flat on the ground. Also, slightly fan out or abduct the toes to maintain a better grip.
Step 3: Lower Slowly And Maintain Back Position
Following the positioning of feet shoulder-width apart and feet flat on the ground, the next step the Asian squat requires is to lower down by activating a range of motion in the lower leg and through hip rotations. This mobility work allows you to bend the knees and offer a slightly wider movement to squat deeper.
The key for beginners trying out the Asian squats is to lower down slowly from the standing position. It ensures that ankle flexibility and ankle mobility are maintained, enabling you to carry out deep squats for long periods.
When lowering down slowly, make sure your feet remain flat on the ground along with your heels. Keep your back in an upright posture and flex the knees together with the hip flexion to ensure smooth lowering.
Step 4: Balance Body Weight
For a successful Asian squat, you should balance your body weight while going down and holding the position. Make sure your body weight is balanced over the feet midline while keeping heels and feet flat and maintained at shoulder-width apart. Keeping your weight balanced on your feet allows the squat to be stable.
Once you have reached a good balance, try to lower down more on your feet and flexed knees to achieve a deep squat. Correct deep squatting is achieved when the gluteal muscles either touch the back of the lower leg or are near the ankles.
Step 5: Hold The Deep Squat Position
After lowering to a deep squat posture, hold and maintain it for at least 10 to 20 seconds. It will allow the leg and core muscles to adapt to the Asian squat and help you squat deeper on the next try. However, ensure you keep your weight and squat posture balanced, so you do not lean forward. Also, keep feet flat at the same distance of shoulder-width apart.
Step 6: Stand Up From The Deep Squat Position
This step in an Asian squat requires a lot of leg strength than used during deep squatting. For beginners standing up from deep squats might be relatively complex since their muscles are not fully adapted to the mobility work. The first few tries might tire you out, but the thigh muscles strengthen with practice, and standing from the Asian squats becomes easier. (4)
Step 7: Take Rest And Repeat The Steps
Once a deep squat has been executed accurately, take a small break of a few minutes to let your leg and core muscles relax. Resting between the Asian squat workout will also help maintain ankle flexibility and ankle mobility while ensuring body awareness. It will allow you to squat deeper in the next rep and ensure a better range of motion and hip rotations.
After the rest minutes are over, repeat the squatting steps at least thrice per workout session to enable your body to perform Asian squats with ease. With time, increase the reps and duration of squat posture holding to acclimate your body to the Asian squat technique and improve health. As your strength builds up, avoid the balance support and use the lower body energy to accomplish accurate deep squatting and standing position.
If you are more of a visual learner, watch this video to understand better how to perform deep squats or Asian squats:
Muscles Involved In Asian Squats
When performing Asian squats, the range of motion activates various body muscles. The muscle groups involved are mainly from the lower body, but some muscles in the waist are also utilized to squat deep.
The groups of lower body muscles activated during an Asian squat are:
The quadriceps on the front and sides of the thigh is a large fleshy group of four muscles; vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus formalis. The function of this muscle group in Asian squats is to initiate the standing position by extending the lower legs. (5)
The gluteal muscles comprising the buttocks region include three muscles; gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus. These muscles work together during an Asian squat to stabilize the hip joint and allow you to perform deep squats without losing balance. (6)
You can also check our killer glutes workout.
The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and cross the hip and knee joints. It includes the four muscles; semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and long and short head of the biceps femoris. For performing Asian squats, the hamstrings work to flex the knee while lowering down and in the deep squatting position. (7)
Adductor Muscles Of Thigh
The adductor muscles of the thigh are also known as the groin muscles. This group includes the 4 muscles; adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, obturator externus, and gracilis. Out of these 4 muscles, the adductor magnus significantly contributes to the Asian squat. The adductor muscles work synergistically to bring the hip and thighs closer when standing up from a deep squat. (8)
The five muscles included in the hip flexor are the psoas, iliacus, pectineus, sartorius, and rectus femoris. All of these muscles function to flex the hip joint and allow hip mobility during Asian squatting. They allow you to squat deeper and bring the body near the flexed knees. (9)
The calf muscles consist of the soleus and gastrocnemius and sometimes the plantaris. Calves are involved in an Asian squat to allow ankle mobility and promote ankle flexibility while stabilizing the feet. Hence, you can perform a deep squat effortlessly with its range of motion. (10)
Other than these lower body muscles, some core muscles are also involved in executing an Asian squat. These muscles include erector spinae, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques, which help balance the body and maintain the deep squat posture. (11)
Interesting Read: Goblet Squat Variations.
Benefits Of Asian Squats
Various health benefits are associated with practicing Asian squats. A few of these benefits are as follows:
The deep squat performed in an Asian squat significantly impacts the body posture. It promotes body awareness and keeps the spine aligned, reducing hunching and slouching. Hence, a deep squat helps achieve a better posture and relieves back aches. (12) Furthermore, Asian squats enable the body to become more flexible, which greatly aids in improving workout performance.
Repeatedly practicing Asian squats can do wonders for your musculature, bone, and joints. Firstly it increases leg strength by actively engaging the muscles and bones in the lower body region. Back strength is also improved with the Asian squat by engaging core muscles, allowing you to perform lifting exercises efficiently. Strengthened core muscles can even let you sit in the deep squat position for long periods. Lastly, Asian squats improve hip mobility and ankle mobility enabling you to squat deep without cramping or losing balance. (13)
Better Digestion And Bowel Movements
Many Asian countries have squat toilets or squat pans installed in washrooms. Compared to toilets in western countries, squat toilets are more hygienic as they minimize toilet seat contact. In order to use a squat toilet, both feet must be placed apart slightly wider on the footrests. A deep squat follows the feet' placement on the toilet seat. The Asian squat posture regulates the bowel movements, allowing you to defecate easily. Along with hygiene, since Asian squats reduce the risk of constipation, many Asian people prefer a squat toilet or squat pan instead of modern sit toilets. (14)
Besides increasing strength, repeatedly performing a deep squat improves the blow flow in the entire body. The squatting posture in Asian squats has a slightly wider range of motion, promoting better blood circulation towards the lower body. Hence, it helps boost the oxygenation and nutrient transport in the lower muscles, improving your workout performance. (15)
Alleviate Pregnancy Pain
Practicing the Asian squat can even help pregnant women to experience less pain during childbirth. Asian squats for inducing labor have been used in some Asian cultures for a long time. It reduces the pressure produced on the uterus, pelvic floor, and diaphragm and strengthens the muscles, enabling less painful pushes during delivery. (16)
Difference Between A Slav Squat And An Asian Squat
When it comes to different squatting techniques, the Slav squat is kind of similar to the Asian squat as both are a type of common resting position. Slav squat and Asian squat involve the use of a deep squat through high flexibility and body balance. However, the difference lies in their method of execution.
In a Slav squat, the feet are placed wider apart, with the toes and knees directed more outwardly. On the other hand, in an Asian squat, the placement of the feet is slightly closer at shoulder-width apart, and the toes and knees are usually aligned. Hence, the Slav squat offers a broader base and is more balanced than the Asian squat, which provides a smaller base during a deep squat.
What Makes The Deep Squats/Asian Squats So Hard?
Various factors come into play when performing an Asian squat. Some people might find it easy to perform, while others may find it challenging. The reasons why people find it hard to perform a deep squat are:
A human's genetic data controls the entirety of the body. The genetic makeup determines the condition of the muscles, bones, range of motion of the joints, limb-length proportions, etc. (17). According to research, the Asian heritage genotype allows Asian people to squat deep compared to those with a genotype from western countries.
Certain limb length proportions are affected by genetics which can make the Asian squat complex. (18) People with short torsos and longer legs find it hard to flex the knees and balance their bodies, resulting in a failed deep squat.
In order to make your muscles adapt to any exercise or posture, constant practice is necessary. Asain people are accustomed to the deep squat posture from an early age due to its utilization in their daily lifestyle. But when compared to the lifestyle in Asian countries, westerners do not have an early experience of the squatting position.
A few might be accustomed to it due to their workout routines, but that is not the case with everyone. With a lack of practice, the muscles do not have enough strength to balance the body, making it hard to achieve a perfect Asian squat. (19)
Age has a significant impact on the overall condition of the body. Throughout young age, the bone growth and remodeling process are in a steady-state, imparting enhanced strength. But with age, osteoblasts' bone deposition rate lessens, and osteoclasts' rate of resorption increases. (20)
This imbalance in the remodeling process causes the bones and joints to become fragile, leading to inflexible ankles, joint pain, etc. Synovial fluid production also decreases in old age, causing joint stiffness and pain during squatting. It is why children can squat easily compared to adults and the elderly. (21)
Adding the Asian squat posture to your workouts can significantly benefit your health and lower body condition. As a beginner, you might find it challenging, but with repeated practice, ample flexibility and balance are achieved. This allows you to squat deeper. By mastering the perfect Asian squat, you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle and receive its full benefits.